GREG Hernandez helped Essex Leopards see off Bristol Academy Flyers in thrilling fashion at the Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre on Sunday.

Hernandez nailed a couple of late crucial free throws to help the Big Cats triumph 68-65.

And he does not want it to be the club’s last game at the venue.

“I enjoyed coming to Southend and would definitely like to play more here,” said Hernandez.

“I liked the court and considering the game hadn’t been advertised for that long it was a good crowd too.

“They created an excellent atmosphere and it was nice to be able to win for them. Thankfully I was able to score the free throws and I knew I had to make them.

“I hadn’t scored much else during the whole game and if I had missed them as well it would have been a miserable afternoon and added fuel to the fire of not playing well.

“But thankfully they went in and we were able to win.”

Leopards led for 34 of the 40 minutes but were never able to pull away and the game went down to the final seconds.

Carl Josey looked to have won the game with a three pointer with 12 seconds remaining to give Leopards a four point lead, but a massive shot from Francisco Robles made it a one point game with seven seconds left.

Hernandez was sent to the foul line where he scored both shots and some tough defence meant that Robles’ two point effort failed to beat the buzzer.

Before then, a Greg Streete three gave Flyers one of only two brief leads in the first half before Josey put Leopards in front with back-to-back baskets.

Josey kept the Big Cats ahead and they took control of the game as Adu launched a 9-0 run, and Leopards went into the first break with a 25-18 lead.

Hernandez opened the second period scoring and the American then hit one of two free throws with 6:20 on the clock to give the hosts a double digit lead.

That proved to be as good as it got in the first half as only a Rowell Graham dunk and an Adu lay-up troubled the scorers. Tom Martin was then called for a harsh intentional foul in the final seconds as Flyers finished with a 10-4 run to cut the Big Cats’ lead to 36-32.

Enrique Garcia and Doug McLaughlin-Williams tied the score with the open baskets of the second half before Cummings and Josey both scored three pointers.

Roy Owen then launched a 7-0 run for the visitors as McLaughlin-Williams gave Flyers their first lead since the opening stages with 4:26 minutes in the third period remaining.

Adu broke the tear and Dan Dunscombe put Leopards up by four before Graham sent the hosts into the final break with a 51-46 lead. McLaughlin-Williams and Adu exchanged baskets to open the final stanza but the visitors scored back-to-back threes.

Four Cummings points gave Leopards a lead they would never lose again with 5:12 on the clock and he hit another pair to put Leopards 59-57 ahead.

Streete made it a one point game and a big Dunscombe block kept the Big Cats ahead Josey – who led the Big Cats with 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals – made it a three point game off an Hernandez assist with 51 seconds remaining before Enrique Garcia set up the thrilling finish with a dunk from an inbounds play.

Leopards’ narrow win came after they had lost 101-92 at Leicester Warriors the night before. They remain sixth in the Division One standings.